Domestic fuel affordability and accessibility in urban Rwanda; policy lessons in a time of crisis?

Katherine E. Woolley, Suzanne E. Bartington, Francis D. Pope, Sheila M. Greenfield, Sue Jowett, Aldo Muhizi, Claude Mugabe, Omar Ahishakiye, G. Neil Thomas, Telesphore Kabera

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Cooking fuel choice and fuel switching behaviours can be influenced by both social and economic contextual factors; with implications for household air pollution exposure. The Rwandan Government have recently proposed a charcoal sale ban to reduce domestic reliance upon charcoal fuels and reduce associated respiratory health harms.

A semi-structured mobile telephone survey administered to 85 participants in an informal settlement in Kigali, Rwanda to identify (i) fuel switching as a result of COVID-19 emergency health protection ‘lockdown’ measures (ii) awareness of proposed charcoal sale restrictions and willingness to pay for alternative domestic cooking fuels.

Of the 85 interviewed participants, 15 (17.6 %) reported a change in primary cooking fuel since the first national COVID-19 emergency ‘lockdown’ period (March – May), with Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) users moving to charcoal (n = 3; 20 %), and charcoal users to firewood (n = 7; 46.7 %) or LPG (n = 4; 26.7 %) and one firewood user to charcoal (n = 1; 6.6 %). Awareness of the forthcoming LPG subsidy (81.5 %) and charcoal ban policy proposals was high among all participants (81.5 %), with 90.7 % indicating they would change their cooking fuel as a consequence. LPG was the preferred alternative fuel of choice (89.8 %), with cost, ease of use and cleanliness reported as rationale. Forty-four percent of participants reported a willingness to pay less, 38 % to pay the same and 25 % to pay more than their current cooking fuel expenditure for a cleaner alternative fuel.

Domestic fuel switching as a result of economic and energy market volatility, was observed in an informal settlement in urban Rwanda as a consequence of COVID-19 emergency measures, most notably by substitution of firewood for charcoal, reflecting a regressive step in the energy ladder. Our findings demonstrate a high level of awareness and engagement with forthcoming domestic fuel policy changes in Kigali, and a large proportion of those interviewed would consider transition to cleaner domestic energy sources. This novel primary research has implications for developing domestic energy resilience to disruptive economic impacts and ensuring effective clean fuel policy implementation in East Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-377
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Early online date27 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Solid biomass cooking
  • Household air pollution
  • Charcoal ban
  • Fuel switching
  • COVID-19
  • Willingness to pay


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